State of the Game Address

Before you read any further I want you to hear me out. Look, we all know the U.S. is in an economic funk. We see it every time we turn on the TV or pull up a news website, so I promise that this is NOT another story about the bad shape of the economy and how life will never be the same in the world of professional golf. Besides, last time I checked things are looking very promising on just about every front of the sport that we all love. The intent of this is not to dwell on the bleakness of your 401k, or to shed a tear for the poor Wall St. millionaires whose company had to pull back on sponsoring golf events. So, if you’re ready to feel excited for something again then you’ve come to the right place. We should all consider ourselves lucky for being alive in such an exciting era of professional golf and I’m here to tell you why.

So you think you’ve got game and want to tee it up with the big boys but you don’t have the tens of thousands of dollars it takes to live on the road 300 days a year. What are your options? Well you could hit up your rich uncle for some financial backing, or if that’s now an option, you can earn your stripes the old fashioned way, by playing and winning your way onto the PGA Tour. Right now, all across the U.S. there are what is called mini-tours; these tours are packed with guys who are striving to take a shot at their dream of walking the same fairways of the game’s greats. Everyone knows about the Nationwide Tour, the PGA’s AAA division is full of the next wave of up-and-comers. The NGA Hooters Pro Golf Tour is another very popular mini-tour that in the recent past has helped the likes of 2007 Masters Champion Zach Johnson gain confidence and much needed cash flow to finally break through on the game’s biggest stage. The options don’t end there; look around a bit because there is surely a pro event not too far from you, and see if you’ve got what it takes to earn your very own oversized staff bag with your name on it!

Isn’t it funny how things work? The retirement of arguably the female golf game’s biggest star only makes more room for the dawn of a new era. Annika Sorenstam has retired from full time tour life, just as this is happening Michelle Wie has earned her way through LPGA Q-school and will compete as a full fledge member of the LPGA Tour in 2009. We’ve seen Michelle for my years, but I think that having her focus on this tour full time will be a good thing for her career and it shouldn’t be long until she starts to pile up the wins. It seems the LPGA has a whole new crop of young superstars every year and it’ll be very exciting to see how they call come out firing; however the crop of new stars can be somewhat of a double edged sword for the LPGA Tour. Don’t get me wrong- new and young talent is always a good thing, period, but being that a lot of these young ladies are literally coming from all corners of the globe it does bring up teeny issue of the language barrier. With more than 120 international players from 26 countries it is hard NOT to have a language barrier! Look, I like to understand the player in an interview as much as the next person does, but personally I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that I don’t care what language they speak if they can flat out golf their ball that good, I want to watch! Oh and speaking of watching, the LPGA just sealed the deal on a 10 year television partnership with Golf Channel starting in 2010! What a great time to be a fan of the LPGA!

PGA Tour
For the first time since Tiger Woods turned pro back in 1996 there is actually another topic that may have warranted being mentioned first in a topic like this…..but low and behold TW is still TW and we’re going to talk about him first. Tiger made his return after winning the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg and subsequently going through an ACL surgically repaired. A lot has happened in the country since we last saw Woods tearing up the competition, yet after 9 months off he still remains the #1 ranked golfer in the world. How will he fare in 09? His knee seems to have held up pretty well after his second round exit at the Accenture Match Play Championship, we get to see him compete again this weekend at the CA in Doral, so he seems to be gearing up for another run at yet another green jacket. I know I’ll be glued to the TV to see it all unfold!

So I mentioned that there was another topic that nearly knocked TW off as the top draw of the 2009 PGA Tour, any guesses as to what it is? In a word, youth. We’ve been looking in every single golfer who has a bit of a hot streak for a rival to Mr. Woods, well our search may just be over and guess what, we might have found three. Rory McIlroy age 19 from Northern Ireland not only made a splash on the European Tour before coming to the states, HE WON the Dubai Desert Classic. Are you kidding me?! He’s 19 years old. Most of us were working at a fast food joint or a grocery store at 19, he’s winning millions playing golf, oh and he’s already ranked #16 in the Official Golf World Rankings! Rory’s not the only young gun that we’ll get to see plenty of in the spring/summer of 2009, expect to see plenty of Japanese 17 year old Ryo Ishikawa and of course we can’t forget about the 18 year old U.S. Amateur champ Danny Lee of New Zealand. Danny Lee, still an amateur, won the 2009 Johnnie Walker Classic over veteran field that included Ryder Cup stalwarts Paul Casey, Lee Westwood, and Ian Poulter. Pretty amazing stuff out of these three kids, I’m sure they’ll be fun to watch for years to come. Many of golf’s analysts predict that McIlroy will eventually become the next world’s #1. We shall see!

You thought it was onto the Senior PGA Tour er…Champions Tour didn’t you? Not quite, but we are going to talk about some old timers who are playing at an extremely high level, only they refuse to show that they’re starting to prepare for life in carts. At the current moment 48 year old Kenny Perry stands in 2nd place of the 2009 FedEx Cup points list. Here is a guy who desperately wanted to make the 2008 Ryder Cup team and once he sealed his spot just kept right on going. A couple of other forty-something players who refuse to let the youth movement push them to the back pages are Steve Stricker (FedEx10th) and Davis Love III (FedEx 14th). I don’t think it would amaze anyone if either one of these three guys were standing in the winner’s ceremony as champion of a major title very soon. Love has been very quick to express his goal of getting back into the field at the Masters, with another decent finish we’ll see that happen, and once it does, don’t be surprised to see DLIII sporting a new green jacket come April 12th 2009!

There you have it, an entire article without giving you one single reason not to be excited about the current situation we’re in right now. We’re in a wonderful time to be a fan of professional golf and it only looks to be picking up steam as the time passes. There have already been some big named players notching wins for themselves on the PGA Tour in 2009 and we didn’t even have time to talk about them! Nothing against Geoff Ogilivy or Phil Mickelson, we love your game and wish you continued success in 09, but c’mon the rest of these topics we’ve covered are just way too exciting for us to ignore right now.

Here’s to keeping it in the short grass

Jason K.

Follow, Like & Share
Visit Us
Follow Me

Jason Kunze
Jason is a busy husband and father of 2 daughters who are both just starting to take up the game that he has loved for years. Golf is his passion, when Jason is not playing golf and testing equipment he's hanging out with all his friends on the THP forum discussing every aspect of this great game.